Sermon by Jim Fish
November 17, 2019
Luke 21:5-19 New International Version (NIV)
The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times
5 Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”
7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”
8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”
10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.
12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.
Now I’d like to examine the final sentence in this passage:
“By standing firm you will gain life.” (21:19)
Does this mean that we are saved by our own endurance? No. We are saved by grace through faith. But faith, true faith, persists, perseveres against all odds.
The last days leading up to the Coming of Christ will be difficult. They will be perilous. It is said that in the Twentieth Century more Christians died for their faith in these 100 years than all the centuries back to Christ put together. God only knows what the Twenty-First Century holds.
But if we know without a shadow of doubt that men’s threats cannot harm us spiritually, we can stand. Our faith strengthens us. His strength becomes our strength. If we trust Christ’s promises, we can stand in the face of anything.
Our theme today is Testify.
Definition of testify
1: to make a solemn declaration under oath for the purpose of establishing a fact (as in a court)
2: to make a statement based on personal knowledge or belief: bear witness
3: to serve as evidence or proof
4: to express a personal conviction
I hope that we have eyes to see and a desire to proclaim the Gospel to our troubled world. Despite the fact that our lessons are disturbing at this time of year, I believe that our Lord is calling us to live our lives in a way that points to what God is doing all around us. This is our challenge.
Too many believe that there is nothing beyond this life. How can anyone not believe in God? (Share.) We must confess our faith in a God who loves us with a love that will never end; too many are convinced that the only thing that matters are the material things… our wealth, our possessions, our temporal power. We must give witness that there is so much more to life than those things that rust and can be stolen.
When prosperity abounds, people forget God. When people have no fear, they also do not fear God. When life is comfortable, God is irrelevant to most people. Jesus said that the coming of troubles will be an occasion to testify. The world will ask ‘why’ and look for hope. We may not be able to answer ‘why’, but we can answer the ‘what’. What is the meaning of life? What is our purpose? We can explain that we live in a world filled with sin and human beings are controlled by sinful human nature. Those who hope in this world will always be disappointed and have foundationless lives. The world focuses on prosperity and peace. When peace is lost, prosperity is meaningless.
We have a calling and God sends us out “as sheep among wolves” for the purpose of bringing people to Jesus Christ so they can be forgiven just as we have been. Glorifying God and having a personal, intimate relationship with God always has been the purpose of our lives. Our calling and command is to bring others into that same hope. Do not be deceived. Do not be afraid. Do not be distracted
Here is a paraphrase of what Jesus would say today, “Everyone needs to relax. Quite a few terrible things happen in life. I know it is scary, but you should see the opportunity to serve others. Don’t be led astray by leaders who offer easy and simplistic answer and blame other people for our problems. Pull together in the hard times that is how you get through. I’ll be with you too, and I will show you the way. Things will get difficult, but stick together and remember what is important in life – to love one another.”
So how do we testify? When do we testify? Where do we testify?
[Jim shared about a time before he was retired and was still working. One of his co-workers expressed himself with a string of expletives, and another worker came over and apologized to Jim for the foul language. Jim was surprised by this, but later on reflection realized that those he worked with knew what kind of man he was and respected him for that. Sometimes we testify with the way we live our lives.- Janet Irby]
Closing Prayer: Father, we live in perilous times. Help us not to be weak and fearful when we are tested and persecuted for your sake. Instead, let us be bold in our Lord. Give us peace. Give us faith. Give us strength that we might bring glory and honor to you. Lord, for those Christians who right now are facing suffering, persecution, and death for your name, let this be their finest hour. Strengthen them by your Holy Spirit’s power to continue in their faith. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.